The difference between how privately owned and Crown land is managed continues to be a problem for Port Alberni’s China Creek watershed, according to Patrick Bell, a Masters of Art in Planning candidate at UBC. Bell was presenting his report titled ‘Forest Harvesting and Water Quality: A Case Study of the China Creek Community Watershed’ on behalf of the Watershed Forest Alliance, a group that has been advocating for more cautious watershed management and less disruptive logging for years.
“Logging usually requires the construction and use of roads, which are the dominant source of sediment in most parts of the watershed,” said Bell.
“Harvesting trees can also increase turbidity as it can alter the absorption and movement of water and cause soil to become unstable, resulting in erosion and landslides.”
The erosion and increased sediment in the water can increase its turbidity (a measure of solid particles suspended in water).
“Turbidity itself doesn’t actually cause health problems but it can interfere with the disinfection process,” said Bell.
“The provincial 4-3-2-1-0 drinking water objective sets the conditions that must be met in order to receive a filtration deferral, which Port Alberni has. If turbidity becomes elevated, this deferral may no longer be possible.”
While Crown land has strict regulations regarding logging practices, private land (93 per cent of the China Creek watershed is owned by Island Timberlands and TimberWest) doesn’t have the same standards, Bell said.
“Private regulations are perceived as being less rigorous, with less transparency and public oversight than Crown regulations,” said Bell.
“The most significant differences between the Crown and private [forest management] acts is the requirement on Crown lands to present a publicly accessible forest stewardship plan to the province for approval before any logging is done.”
Council forwarded Bell’s report to their watershed committee.